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Rare Glimpse: See 3 Stealth Bombers Returning From 25hr Libyan Mission

"...in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn."

Talk about a long flight.

Three Air Force stealth bombers are safe in Missouri today after returning from a 5,709-mile, 25-hour bombing campaign in Libya.

"Sometime after noon [Sunday], three Air Force Global Strike Command B-2 Spirit bombers returned to home base after striking targets in support of the international response which is enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya," a press release on the Whitman Air Force Base website says. "The B-2s landed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., after a more than 25-hour mission in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn."

And the planes were packing more than enough heat. The release says the bombers carried "45 guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions, each weighing 2,000 pounds."

The Air Force released video of one of the planes' return. According to the Daily Mail, "at $2.1bn, they are the most expensive warplanes in the world and rarely leave their climate-controlled hangars:"

The Mail explains that the long flights are necessary because the B-2s are so unique that it's hard to house them at bases across the world:

A major drawback, however, is the intensive maintenance required by the B-2s, whose heat and moisture sensitive skin must be painstakingly taped and cured after every mission.

In previous conflicts, the maintenance requirements kept the B-2s tethered to their home base at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

In Afghanistan, that meant 44-hour bombing runs for their two-member crews, the longest air combat missions in history. It also meant few B-2 missions.

But the air force has built special climate-controlled shelters at bases on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia and at Fairford, Gloucestershire, for B-2s, which were built by Northrop Grumman and first flew in 1989.

Despite the need for upkeep, the Mail sums up why the plane, two of which can do the work of 75 conventional military aircraft, is so deadly:

As far as the sleep deprivation, it's possible the pilots used auto pilot or a fold-out bed behind the cockpit.

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.

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